Normal and opacified middle ears: CT appearance of the stapes and incudostapedial joint

Radiology. 1997 Apr;203(1):251-6. doi: 10.1148/radiology.203.1.9122403.


Purpose: To establish the computed tomographic (CT) visibility of the incudostapedial joint and of the stapes superstructure in normal and opacified middle ears.

Materials and methods: Two independent observers reviewed CT studies with 1-mm section thickness of the temporal bone in 75 normal ears and in 33 opacified middle ears (13 of which had definitive proof of disease) to establish the rate of visualization of the stapes and incudostapedial joint.

Results: In normal ears, both the stapes crura and the continuity between the incus and stapes were seen in almost 100% of cases, whereas the actual incudostapedial joint was identified in 86% (86 observations) and 67% (67 observations) of cases in the axial and coronal planes, respectively. The position of the incudostapedial joint was below footplate level on the axial images and mostly at or anterior to the midportion of the foot-plate on the coronal images. In 13 clinically confirmed diseased middle ears, the status of the stapes superstructure in all cases and that of the incus in 11 cases was correctly predicted with CT.

Conclusion: It is now possible to visualize routinely the incudostapedial joint and stapes superstructure at CT. Absence of these structures in an opacified middle ear strongly indicates abnormality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ear Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ear, Middle / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Incus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Observer Variation
  • Reference Values
  • Stapes / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*